AN INTERVIEW WITH
Dave Lawson is an Australian television and radio personality. You may have recently seen him as Scott in ABC1's comedy series Utopia or as Graeme in the film, The Mule. I interviewed Dave about his love for catering, shaving his head, working with Game of Thrones' Peter "The Dink" Dinklage, fatherhood and more.
How did you first get into acting?
I was studying Advertising at RMIT in the late 90s; and a mate of mine in the course, his mum was an Agent - which was very helpful. I'd called a few agents previously and they'd told me to call back when I'd done some work. Kind of a catch 22 - you can't get work without an Agent and can't get an Agent without work.
The first audition was for a chocolate milk called 'Gary'. I got the job and was hooked - mainly for the catering.
Is acting always something you've wanted to do?
Not particularly. I always enjoyed being a dick and trying to make friends laugh (but) it wasn't until I was about 16 that I considered I might like to become an actor one day.
The early advice I received was to have a fall back career, which is why I studied Advertising. It seemed like a mix of acting and drawing - my favourite subjects at high school. I was constantly reminded of the statistic that 99% of actors are out of work. Dad reminded me that also means 1% are in work.
Did have any any odd jobs before becoming an actor?
Plenty. My first job was selling The Herald newspaper in the late 80s. It cost 40 cents a paper, so people would often just give me a 50c piece and tell me to keep the change. I was making some serious scratch for a 10 year old.
I've delivered pamphlets, worked in a hippy incense store, dressed-up as Wilky the Wizard (at) children's parties and ran a lawn mowing business, which was shut down after I mowed off Dad's sprinkler heads.
I've read that you've done some stand up comedy, but I can't find any evidence and/or video. Do you still do shows?
This is a Wiki lie. Not sure how it got there. I did consider becoming a stand-up comedian only so I didn't have to learn how to change the (Wikipedia) page. I'm also not Henry Lawson's great Grandson.
One of the earliest things you did was the popular and memorable music video 'Dust Me Selecta' by Aussie band, Gerling. What are some of your personal experiences from working on such a popular and memorable music video?
Jolyon Watkins, who I had worked with before, was directing the video. He called up and asked if I wanted to be in it (two days work $200 a day). Yes thanks!
I thought it might be played once on Rage and no-one will ever see it, so why not? It played all the time and nominated for 'ARIA Clip Of The Year', which was great. I really liked the song and the clip. Gerling weren't in the clip, so people thought I was Gerling.
You're also in 'Green' by Alex Lloyd and 'The Speed of Life' by Duncan James. Is auditioning for a music video different from auditioning for a film or television role?
I don't think I've ever auditioned for a film clip often I'd worked with director previously. There is a very very small budget for film clips in Australia. I think most of the time they're made using friends and favours.
What do you find that people recognise you for the most?
Mostly the Toyota/AFL Ads, although lately I've been bumping (into) grown-up 'Nickheads' telling me they use to watch me every afternoon. It kinda makes you feel old when a grown-up tells you they watched you when they were a kid. It's great though.
Speaking of the AFL/Toyota ads with funny-man Stephen Curry. You've done some super crazy things on those ads, which are based on classic AFL legendary moments (and now Cricketing moments) in history, like dressing up in a woman's fat suit, the classic mullet wig, nudity, using a flamethrower etc. But probably the most memorable is the one that you shaved your head - which you actually did. Was that a spare of the moment thing?
No. The director called me and asked if I'd like to use a bald cap or do it for real. There really wasn't any other option. I think with those Ads you've got to go for it.
I imagine there was some nervousness as you would have had one take to get it right, as once the hair is gone, its gone type thing?
Yep, it was a one go thing. I practiced on a hair mannequin. KB (footballer, Kevin Bartlett) had no idea it was going to happen.
Were those ads as much fun to make as they are to watch?
They are great. I feel so fortunate to have been involved in the campaign. I've been able to meet so many great people over the past 11? years.
For me, personally, I most know you from your work with Nickelodeon, which you did a number of projects for. Was it fun to work with a network that let you be as silly as you wanted and get paid for it?
I love Nickelodeon and loved working for them. I could probably still be working for them now If I didn't think after 5 years it was time to give someone else a go.
On SN:TV there was a segment called Challenge Dave. I don't really have a question about it, but I learnt what an Axolotl was because of you.
That segment would probably one of the highlights for me too.
Do you still speak to/keep in contact with any of your Nickelodeon co-hosts?
Yes. In particular, (James) Kerley. Also Nat (Garonzi) and from time to time Jesse "James" Tobin and Kambo (David Kambouris).
Do you find it funny that Jesse changes his professional name to James and all of a sudden he takes over Channel 7?
I think it was a good move. I believe he was always called 'Jesse James' by his family, which is why he started his career of that way.
You and James Kerley went on to do The Dave and Kerley Show on Foxtel's Channel V. Are there any plans to work with James again in the future?
I love working with James and we have been approached from time to time to do stuff together (but) he lives in Sydney (and) I'm in Melbourne which adds a degree of difficulty.
You've also done numerous projects with comedian Peter Helliar. One that comes to mind is the small role in I Love You Too. Is it kind of cool to have bragging right that you've been in something with Peter Dinklage, considering how popular Game of Thrones is right now?
Dink, I call him The Dink. Unfortunately, I never got to meet him and never thought to talk about "the time I worked with Peter Dinklage". I will now though.
Not for me. It could have been terrible for the girls though. I've always really enjoyed meeting and getting to know new people which is really all a date is. If you take the pressure off, it's always a lot easier.
If you were in your character's shoes, would you have just called it a day and proposed another day?
Nope. It's Poh (Ling Yeow from TV's Masterchef).
Was it a surprise to you to learn that Poh could act, considering she is known more for her cooking?
Poh told me she loved acting at school and was involved in the plays and musicals. I'm sure she's got plenty more tricks up her sleeve. Have you seen her art? It's amazing.
If you could write a second episode for your characters, what would you like to see happen to them?
An episode set around the birth of their first child could be fun.
In 2009, you starred in Guerrilla Gardeners. The show caused a lot of controversy because you were essentially making over properties without permission from the council. There has to be some kind of rebellious bad boy feelings doing something that is breaking the law?
Again, I got a call from a producer whose children watched me on Nickelodeon. I loved the idea and said I'd love to be involved without hesitation. I love that what we were doing was somehow breaking the law. We never got charged (but) I think we might have come close once or twice though.
If you look at it one way, there is kind of heroism in what you guys did. You took a negated place and would turn it into something people could use and enjoy. Surely, there is some kind of gratitude in that?
It was really great to look at the finished product and see the transformation of a dead space. Particularly the reactions from the locals.
Have you revisited any of the sights to see if any are still there?
I've driven past a few and the one's I've seen look great.
You recently starred as Scott in Rob Sitch's Utopia. The show was well received by both journalists and viewers - especially those working in the government sector. What do you think the reason behind its success was?
I think firstly, (production company) Working Dog know exactly what they are doing and they do it the way they want to do it. They are thorough and have thought about any problems before they arise.
What was your experience like working on the show?
I've watched everything they've done since I was a teenager (so) I was thrilled to be involved. Again, the catering was incredible. I think this comes down to their experience. If you feed people well they are happy and more productive.
Do you think there will be a second season?
Yes. A second series has been announced. Not sure what's going to happen. (We) get the scripts the week before shooting.
So, what's up with your web series Dave's Shed Show? Will we ever get another episode?
It's floating around in the back of my head. Possibly?
Since the last episode of Dave's Shed Show, you've worked with a lot more celebrities who surely would help?
It was great fun to make. I was relying on favours from friends with cameras, friends with sound gear, lights, and friends with editing gear. Everyone was always happy to help and have offered to help me with more if I'm interested.
Does it make it harder to do the show now that you have a son?
Perhaps a little, only because I'd rather be playing with him than doing anything else.
How has becoming a father changed you?
The only thing I can think of, it makes you pull your head out of your own arse a bit.
You have to travel for work. Does that make it hard for you and on your family?
Fortunately, I have plenty of time off also which means I have a lot of time to spend at home, at the Zoo, museum, Scienceworks, pool - doing stuff my son likes doing. Actually, I think I might like doing these things and I just drag him along.
You next star as Sergeant Gosch in the feature film, Oddball - based on the true story of Allen "Swampy" Marsh and his dog. What drew you to the project?
It's a very very small part and (I) was offered the role. I loved the cast and said yes immediately. It was great fun to play a cop. I told my son I was at work pretending to be a policeman and pulling people over. He told his swimming teacher, "my Dad pretends to be a policeman and pulls people over". She had no idea I was an actor and just saw a creepy guy with a moustache who pulls people over in his spare time.
Australian movies can often be a tough sell, and it is rumoured that Oddball will be released at the cinemas. Do you hope that the Australian public will support a locally made film?
Always. Oddball is a really fun movie. Dogs and penguins, what's not to like? Although, recently the film The Mule bypassed cinemas and went straight to iTunes. It was a very successful way to release that particular film.
As someone who knows little of the story, it sounds kind of similar to the highly successful film, Red Dog. Although, surely it can't hurt if it is marketed that way?
I haven't seen Red Dog yet although I can imagine the producers are hoping it resonates in the same way.
Shane Jacobson, whom you worked with on television drama series, The Time of Our Lives, stars as 'Swampy' in Oddball. Is it a blessing that the Australian film and television industry is so small that you're likely to work with people you already know? Does it make it easier on set?
It always helps in your down time on set when you have someone to hang out with. Fortunately, my mate Richard Davies was also in the movie so we got to spend a bit of time together down at Warrnambool while shooting.
There's another actor in the film, Sarah Snook, who is incredible. If you have a chance to see Predestination, she is off the charts.
What would be your dream project to work on?
Utopia was kind of it.
Who would you most like to work with?
Tough one. I think anything Ricky Gervais does is generally consistently brilliant.
What do you like to do when you're not working?
Playing with my son, George. Or drawing and painting, I find it meditative. It's just a hobby.
Lastly, do you have anything to say to your fans?
I've never considered myself to have fans, apart from the Nickelodeon days perhaps, even then they just tried to kick me in the nuts.